Monday, May 24, 2010
I watch "Ghost Hunters", in awe of the adventurers creeping around some deserted asylum, calling out to spirits and chasing after sounds that would send me flying in the opposite direction, and I ask myself, is there something more here? Something that is a reflection of our sensibilities regarding the supernatural?
If you think back to some rather creepy ghost stories, tales that might have been written thirty, twenty, maybe even ten years ago, you have to ask yourself if it is possible that advances in science and rampant pragmatism have killed this subgenre? Maybe. But to be honest, if I thought something supernatural was going on in my house, I wouldn't be walking around with a tape recorder, trying to engage whatever it was in discussion for the sake of an EVP.
So if you were going to write a short story about a ghost, and wanted it to be frightening, what would you do? Giving the ghost a history and a personality is always chancy. The more you know about the unknown, the less terrifying it is. Do you set the story in an old house or location, or try setting it in a new apartment or office building?
Traditionally, ghosts don't actually hurt anyone. Malign spirits are instead demonically influenced. The danger of the haunting spirit is the fear factor and little else. In film, it's perhaps easier to pull off a fright in this area. Consider some of the more successful films you've seen in the last decade:"Ring", "The Others", "The Sixth Sense", "Paranormal Activity". Each of these films pushes the genre, shifting our expectations and delivering a novel experience, but an experience which doesn't do well with a second viewing.
Me? I've never written a ghost story. I've written about returning gods from other dimensions, vampires, zombies, serial killers of all shapes and sizes, magic gone wrong, and malign entities, but never about a returning presences that goes "boo!"
Maybe I'll try if I have some time this summer.
Maybe I'll try ghost hunting.
However, if I actually do try my hand at this and hear or see something, I make no promises. I'm probably running and doing my best not to look too much like Curly from the Three Stooges.